NWU study shows climate change can be linked to growth of poisonous fungi

Koos Degenaar -- Tue, 07/21/2015 - 15:33

NWU study shows climate change can be linked to growth of poisonous fungi

A recent study at the School of Animal Health Sciences on the Mafikeng Campus of the North-West University (NWU) shows that climate change can influence the growth of fungi that produce poisonous chemical composites known as mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins are commonly found in maize and sorghum even under well-controlled harvesting and storage conditions although not in concentrations that could be harmful to health. However, when it comes to areas where this is not well regulated, the grain becomes damp or infested with insects causing high concentrations of mycotoxins which can be dangerous to health. 

Dr Mulunda Mwanza, a senior lecturer at the School for Animal Health Sciences now suspects that climate change could affect the growth of the fungi that produce these poisons. This is especially a concern as climate change is linked to extreme fluctuations in temperature, humidity and rainfall. “We want to establish whether extreme fluctuations in temperature and moisture will have an influence on the increase of toxin production and the occurrence of mycotoxins. Climate change is a reality and perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing mankind,” says Dr Mwanza.

There are over 500 known mycotoxins of which some of them are associated with cancer of the liver, kidneys and oesophagus in humans and with immune suppression and organ damage in livestock. This research is evidence of the university and staff's commitment to growing our research, developing our students and contributing to global concerns.